The topic of setting boundaries online has been one I’ve wanted to chat about here for a while. After blogging, sharing, creating, writing, putting myself and my business out there on social media – for nearly 5 years! – safe to say I’ve had my buttons pushed. But since the conversation itself is a button pusher (and I’m not!), I’ve avoided bringing it up at all. However, I’ve recently had a few situations affect me personally. And since I generally approach a situation with a positive spin, I figured why not go ahead and talk. It’s a great conversation that should be had. As a parent of a child heading into middle school, it’s that much more important because we are starting that open dialogue here at home.
Personally, I know I need to check myself when that defensive feeling rises to the surface…and I feel myself getting puffy. You know, that moment you want to rub your hands together and charge toward the keyboard to say something. Yes, in 5 years I’ve definitely had moments. But instead, I’ve stepped away to take a deep breath and not acted or reacted negatively. In order to do that and keep a positive attitude while sharing and blogging, I’ve set healthy boundaries and I tap into an important life skill = self-control.
While the areas of the Internet I hang around are generally upbeat and positive, we are all too aware of how toxic, critical, ugly and divisive the online world can be in other corners. But when you find yourself in one of those dark corners, someone makes a generalized statement on their Facebook page that triggers feelings, or you read an opinion article that is opposite of yours…how you choose to react can change everything. For the better…or worse. And ultimately, your reaction affects you and your well-being. I’ve seen friends or colleagues get so wrapped up in something it ruins their day. Sometimes their entire week.
As I said, I’ve run into my fair share of negativity – whether through my social channels or reading something online in general. But I can choose how I react and internalize it. And I can choose the path toward positive. Because really, do you ever feel better after taking the low road?
So, how do I set boundaries?
Take a deep breath and walk away.
I could pretty much end here with this bullet point because a lot of what I’m going to say comes back to this, but…I won’t. Seriously though, it’s too easy to react swiftly in the moment and get caught up. Then later you feel like garbage for having responded in the tone you did. I can pretty much guarantee if you walked away to give it more thought, your response (had you chosen to actually follow through with it) would have been calmer and more eloquent. #keepitclassy
More often than not, it’s not about you.
It’s hard not to let negative comments affect you personally but guess what – – sometimes it’s not even about you. Even if their overly generalized statement pushed a button, take a step back, a deep breath and consider if it really applies to you. Chances are it doesn’t.
Be compassionate and empathetic.
This has worked for me every. single. time. Remembering I just said “it’s not about you”…that means chances are high it’s about them. If someone on my Facebook page makes a sweeping status update or, as an example, posted something over the top ridiculous opposite of my opinion, instead of responding I just walk away, breathe and think about that person behind the statement. Whether it’s someone I know personally or not, when I consider where this person might be in their life it changes how I respond and react. Of course, if it’s someone I know personally on my private Facebook page, I’m able to hone in on what’s going on behind the scenes. If it’s a friend that’s recently been through a difficult life change, if they don’t have friends to meet with offline or have always been that attention-seeking personality type (we all know one or more of these)…I take it all into account before reacting. You rarely find me responding in these situations anyway, but on the occasion I do, I respond with something positive that shows compassion. Choose the positive path.
Remind yourself they don’t know you or your story.
Where online negativity has affected me personally is with rude, judgmental comments written in comment sections. It’s so easy to be brave / rude when you’re behind that computer monitor. When they affect me personally, I remind myself these people don’t know the full story. No one knows the entire story behind a space I organized, why I organized it that way, what my client’s budget is or what their habits are. I organize for my clients…not for me and not for those reading along online. Everyone lives differently and what works for you may not work for someone else. This is exactly why I chose to share online – to inspire and provide options for various situations and budgets. This is an important point for those with a business that share images on Instagram, for example. I have a thriving community of friends on Instagram and the vast majority never make it over to my blog. They only know me over there. So if they see that one beautiful after shot and leave a snarky comment about how it will never work or as why in the World I chose that product or call me “OCD” or hash tagging my post with #konmari…instead of firing off a response, I remember they don’t know the full story. They don’t read the blog (I wish they would!). And they don’t know me or my client. They don’t even know I’ve never read the Kon Mari book! Taking a step away, breathing in a calm breath and remembering everything I just said makes all the difference in my day going forward.
Not every battle needs to be fought.
That said, I don’t need to respond to every single negative or judgey comment. Because *I* know what the real deal is. Let them judge. Let them leave a negative comment. I know I’m doing good in the lives of my clients and this person’s negativity could stem from something they are unhappy with in their own life. They can’t bring me down! I’m in charge of my happiness…and certainly, my clients are pretty happy!
Often times it’s not worth the argument.
Even if you say something in defense and what you’re saying is factual, ask yourself if you’re trying to win. Are you? Is it worth the argument? Worth sparking a debate? Worth keeping the commentary going? Will you ultimately end up looking good? Probably not…and if this is a personal friend, it could change the course of the friendship. (Maybe that’s a good thing – maybe not). Instead, show compassion and understanding. Send them a sweet offline message letting you know you’re thinking of them.
Have an open mind.
It’s ok to not agree on everything. That’s the beauty of life. We can still disagree and have a peaceful online relationship. Agree to disagree. And walk away. We’ve all heard this. But if I’m going to listen to you with an open mind, please do the same for me. Why do I suddenly hear kindergarten songs in my head? Oh that’s right, because we learned about how to handle disagreements with friends way back in the day. I choose to keep an open mind because the truth is I’m curious to know why someone thinks the way they do. It challenges my own beliefs and makes me think deeper. Sometimes I learn something in the process – I love that! You’re not going to sway me though. And I have no plans to try swaying you. I’m curious and want to hear you out with an open mind.
Not everyone writes well.
I’m raising my hand high on this point! Yes, here I sit blogging about this touchy subject and doing my best to put thoughts / experience into writing this for you guys…but that’s the point. I’m doing my best. Am I able to write a novel here to discuss every single feeling behind every single bullet point? Do I have the time or ability to explain why I’ve come to this conclusion that works? Do I have the strength to share that I was bullied as a child so I’m hyper sensitive when I see it happen online…or how I react when someone says something rude / mean to me online? No. I’d lose you guys (I’m already well past 1500 words here and many of you could possibly have clicked away). When we read things online it’s important to keep an open mind, keep it all in context and understand not everyone has the greatest writing abilities. Or the time. Or the heart to share it all. Or are engaging enough to keep you reading. Not everyone has the gift of expressing themselves in words. They are doing their best. And even if they said something negative in response, they may just be at a loss for words and sent something in a way that could have been said better over the phone or…hello, if they had taken a deep breath and waited to respond to you with a clearer mind.
Set boundaries for yourself the easy way!
The easiest way to set a firm boundary is by not following the person who pushes your buttons. Duh. If you have a friend that won’t stop posting political pieces or making bold statements that get you fired up – unfollow them. Not unfriend. Unfollow. You can do that now on Facebook. You can mute people on Twitter. You can avoid a blogger by unsubscribing or sending their notifications to your spam box. There are easy ways to avoid negativity when you clearly know where it’s coming from. Put safeguards in place to keep you from being exposed / reading it to begin with. Protect yourself and take care of you!
Finally, if you must say something…
…try to say it offline. Whether you have something to say to the person commenting or you want to let it all out to a friend, try to keep it offline as much as possible. This avoids the snowball effect. Who doesn’t love dishing about it with a good friend – where you can laugh and joke because you’re doing it in private and can say whatever you want without filters.
There’s clearly a lot more to say on this topic and my post is fairly specific given the niche I write in / what I share online and over social media. To be honest, the situations have been rare on the business side…I mean, who can get mad or upset seeing a calming, organized space. Right? But I’d love to hear your tips for setting boundaries online. My hope is that this post gets the conversation going for you, your friends and if you have children online – talk to your kids!
Look forward to hearing from you!